A ‘Beautiful half hour of being a mere woman’: The Feminist Subject and Temporary Solidarity

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

Taking Mina Loy’s articulation of femininity in her poem ‘One O’Clock at Night’ as a point of departure, I examine a false dichotomy facing contemporary feminism: should we identify with or reject the gender imposed upon us? In conjunction with a materialist analysis which posits women as a class, this paper argues that Loy’s discussion of gender could provide a useful framework with which to critique the ‘soft abolitionist’ approach trending today; a largely online movement which assumes that the individual can permanently sever themselves from the confines of gender and construct an autonomous political subjectivity from this shared (and often openly traumatised) ‘non-identity’. I discuss criticisms by trans theorists of the notion that liberation can be located from within gender, and explore ways in which the identification- versus-rejection question has been engaged with in historical feminisms. This includes Monique Wittig’s partial rejection of the term ‘woman’, and a strand of 1970s radical feminism termed (by its critics) ‘the anti-woman line’. In its conclusion, this paper looks to the present – using the feminist-activist group Sisters Uncut as a case study. It asks whether a dialectical praxis, looking to the conversations around ‘identity’ had within historical feminist movements, could inject contemporary feminisms and struggles with a politics of solidarity or political subjecthood, cutting through debates based on narrow understandings of identity and non-identity.

A ‘Beautiful half hour of being a mere woman’: The Feminist Subject and Temporary Solidarity

in Historical Materialism

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